Music of Arkansas

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Arkansas is a Southern state of the United States. Arkansas's musical heritage includes country music and various related styles like bluegrass and rockabilly.

State songs[edit]

Arkansas has four official state songs:

The reason for two of the official state songs is a copyright dispute. "Arkansas" was published in 1916 by the Central Music Company, written by Eva Ware Barnett and Will M. Ramsey (though state law only credits Mrs. Barnett). It became the official song on January 12, 1917. Until either 1945 or 1949, "Arkansas" was the only official song in Arkansas. At that time, there was a copyright dispute and the state adopted "The Arkansas Traveler" as the official song, a situation that remained unchanged until 1963. In that year, the copyright dispute was resolved and "Arkansas" became official again, until 1987, when it was changed to the official state anthem. In that year, "Arkansas (You Run Deep In Me)" and "Oh, Arkansas" were officially designated state songs as well, and "The Arkansas Traveler" was designated the official state historical song.[1]

Arkansas Politicians and Music[edit]

Two Arkansas politicians have been noted for mixing music with their campaigns for the presidency. Bill Clinton, attorney general and 50th and 52nd governor of the state and later president, played the saxophone, famously performing "Heartbreak Hotel" on The Arsenio Hall Show during the 1992 presidential election.[2] Mike Huckabee, 54th governor, plays the bass guitar, and his campaign in the 2008 presidential election has prominently featured cover song performances by his band Capitol Offense.[3]

Genres[edit]

Classical[edit]

Composer Florence Price was born in Little Rock in 1887.

Arkansas is home to several classical music associations.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1966.[4] When the orchestra was founded, a local bank held the organization responsible for the debts of previous attempts at organizing an orchestra. Ten individual members assumed responsibility for the debt, and so the orchestra was formed, led by experienced conductor Vasilios Priakos. Today the Orchestra is conducted by Phillip Mann. They have an extensive outreach and education program. In February 2012, George Takei performed with the group in a Holocaust memorial.[5]

There are also many regional orchestras and choir societies in the state. These groups are made up of local men and women and perform classical and contemporary music at various concerts and gatherings around the state.

Country, bluegrass and folk music[edit]

Traditional folk instruments include the fiddle and banjo as well as guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and autoharp.

Located in the Ozark Mountains, the town of Mountain View bills itself as the "Folk Music Capital of the World". There is an Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, which includes musicians like Ronnie Dunn, Melvin Endsley, Al Green and Jimmy Driftwood.

Gospel[edit]

Gospel music is very popular in Arkansas. Because of the racial tension past and present in the Delta region, gospel music has had a tremendous influence in the lives of African Americans in Arkansas.[6] While Blues is dominated by men, it is the women of Arkansas who have led the way in gospel music. Gospel composer, singer, pianist, arranger Roberta Martin was born in Helena. The Brockwell Gospel Music School in Brockwell, Arkansas in Izard County, has been offering a two-week summer course in Gospel music since 1947.[7]

R&B[edit]

West Memphis, just across the Mississippi river from Memphis, Tennessee, has its own thriving music scene. When Beale Street would shut down for the night, performers like BB King, Ike Turner, Junior Parker, and Elmore James came to 8th street in West Memphis. Wayne Jackson even said once that "the Memphis sound was born over the river".[8] Jackson was born and raised in West Memphis. The West Memphis R&B scene was an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.[9]

Rock[edit]

Sister Rosetta Tharpe from Cotton Plant was a gospel artist who achieved crossover success and became a rock and roll pioneer, influencing among many others fellow Arkansas native Johnny Cash from Kingsland. Sonny Burgess was another Arkansan who influenced the rock and roll industry as an artist for Sun Records in adjacent Memphis, Tennessee. Arkansas early rock and roll was typically rockabilly music influenced by Zydeco music and blues.[10]

Arkansas garage rock and psychedelic music of the 1960s has been reexamined by Psych of the South with Lost Souls.[11]

Independent and local[edit]

While Arkansas is known for its southern styles of music, there is a much younger style coming from the state as well. In the late 1990s, and early 2000s, there were many rock music groups, as well as pop rock groups. One of the best-known bands from this time would be multi-platinum-selling rock band Evanescence, which has origins in Little Rock.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Little Rock became the home of a thriving punk and metal music scene. This scene was captured in the 2007 film Towncraft. As the trends have changed, post-hardcore and metalcore have gained local popularity. Bands include Norma Jean, Blessthefall, and Fear Before the March of Flames. Doom Metal is represented by Pallbearer from Little Rock, while Rwake is known for southern sludge metal. American Princes from Little Rock show the indie rock side of Arkansas.

Tommy Riggs (Tom Payton) is an Arkansan singer, piano and keyboard player who had several bands while performing around the state in the 1960s and 1970s. He also was working as a radio DJ (as Tom Jones) at the time, on KCLA, during 1968 through 69 and as Tom Payton on KXLR in North Little Rock in 1964, and in 1966 at KAAY. During this period, he promoted himself as Tom Payton and the Kingpins, Tom Payton with The Playboys, and several other names. He recorded while he was Rock Robbins from KAAY on the Little Rock label MY Records in 1966. Two songs from the session were released on a 45 rpm record, "My Little Girl" and "Good Lovin'".

Arkansas's rock and roll scene is served by a free monthly magazine launched by Peter Read on December 8, 1980 called Night Flying.[12]

Notable Musicians from Arkansas[edit]

Festivals[edit]

Among Arkansas's most prominent modern musical festivals is Riverfest, a music festival held along the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. Riverfest has been held annually since 1978. Wakarusa is great festival held on Mulberry mountain near Ozark, AR.

References[edit]

External links[edit]